Spokane movie fans who also use DirecTV should take note: yesterday marked the premiere of DirecTV’s new Video On Demand service, titled Home Premiere, which will offer new movie releases just 60 days after they hit theaters for the premium price of $30. But already, the entertainment industry is in a flap over what some see as a threat to already-shrinking ticket sales.
Some of Hollywood’s biggest directors signed an open letter criticizing the participating studios–Sony, Universal, Warner Bros., and Fox Searchlight–for agreeing to the VOD deal. Among them? Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, James Cameron, Michael Bay, and Robert Rodriguez.
In the letter, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) laments that the new VOD service could lead to major revenue losses and theater closures, stating “The competition for those screens that remain will become that much more intense, foreclosing all but the most commercial movies from theatrical release.” The letter goes on to say that many small-budget films would be hurt by this new model, since they are generally limited-release only and depend on audience awareness to build publicity; releasing these films on VOD while they’re still struggling to find a foothold in theaters could severely kill their chances of success.
The DirecTV model would offer films on-demand a minimum of sixty days after the theatrical releases, which is well ahead of the standard four-month DVD release window; after two weeks, the titles will be pulled. In the past, there has been outcry over plans to release DVDs ahead of schedule at the 16- or 17-week mark, but this is the first time anyone has offered films at the eight week mark.
The first film offered through Home Premiere was the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It, which hit theaters just this February but won’t be available on DVD until June. Forthcoming titles include Hall Pass, Cedar Rapids, and The Adjustment Bureau.
The whole affair has become a tangled mess of differing opinions and counter-opinions. Theater owners complain that the VOD plan will hurt their business, while studios claim that premium VOD mainly attracts people who don’t go to theaters in the first place, and that most theaters make the majority of their cash from new releases in the first 4-5 weeks of play anyway–well ahead of the 60-day mark. Some studio bigwigs have also accused theater owners of hurting their own business prospects by raising the prices on tickets and refreshments, discouraging theater attendance.
The real question is, will consumers bite? Thirty dollars is a lot of money to plunk down for a movie–more than the price of a movie ticket, and much more than a customer would pay if they simply waited to rent or buy the DVD. DirecTV is gambling that impatient consumers who missed a film in theaters and can’t find it at a nearby replay theater will shell out the cash to view it through Home Premiere.
In the end, the most telling thing about the VOD plan is the quietly circulating rumor that DirecTV will treat the Home Premiere plan as a six-month test, to see whether it will really be financially successful. If it is, other companies may experiment with their own premium VOD programs, but for now, it looks like Home Premiere is merely a test run of sorts.
What do you think, Spokane movie fans? Would you try out a premium VOD service like Home Premiere? Or will you stick to your weekly DVD rentals?